2011 Philly Half: the plan

Planning out a race can be a fruitless exercise. I might get boxed in at the start, I might have a stomach ache, my legs might feel dead when I tell them to run 6:52 pace…any of these things could throw off my carefully laid plans. However, I like to plan things, make lists, and be prepared, so that’s what I’m going to do. To be honest, I am really nervous about this race. Even more nervous than last year’s NYC marathon. Why you ask? I’ve laid a pretty concrete goal (1:29:xx) and while I think I have the potential to run that time, I have no idea how difficult it’s going to be or if it will actually happen on Sunday. Maybe I will feel awesome and run well under my goal time, but it’s also possible that when things get painful and hard (and they will), my confidence will falter and I’ll slip into a slower pace. I’m scared of failing, of letting myself down.


In attempts to stave off panic attacks, I’ve formulated my race weekend plan.

I’m staying with my Mom and Sister in a hotel on Saturday night which is clutch because I know they will love me no matter what. Even if I babble on about race splits and corrals for hours on end and then make them turn off the lights and go to sleep at 10pm. The hotel is only about a mile from the starting line, so it will be the perfect warm up for Sunday morning. Race day weather is also looking favorable albeit warm for late November! I’m guessing the temperatures will be in the high 40’s for the 7am start. My plan is to wake up around 5am, drink coffee ASAP, eat a honey stinger waffle, and banana, and then leave for my warm-up a bit after 6am. Arriving at the starting line around 6:10am should hopefully give me enough time to wait in the porta-potty line and get corralled. I’m not checking a bag, so that should free up a few minutes. This also means I won’t have my phone after the race, so uhhh….hope I can find the family!

The Race Day ensemble (CPTC jersey, nike sports bra, New Balance split shorts, Nike dry fit socks, Saucony Kinvaras)

I’ve already talked about my pacing plan – 7:00 pace for the first 3 miles and then dropping down to 6:55 or 6:50 for the remainder of the race. Ideally, I’d finish up with some 6:45 miles to make up for the slow start….I’ve found that I need to stay comfortable for the first 3-5 miles of the half-marathon in order to have a good race. If I start feeling like I’m in the “red zone” too early on, I freak out and all racing confidence flies out the window. Luckily, I’ve never had a problem with getting excited and going out too fast. Negative Splits are my middle name.

Some other things to note –

1) I’m not going to wear my Garmin. The first 7 miles of the race weave through Downtown Philly and while it would be nice to have data after the race, I’ve found that wonky satellite reception and mile splits that are “off”, just stress me out. I really like the digital watch/pace band combo, so that’s what I’m going to go with. Plus, calculating when I need to be at the next mile marker can be a nice distraction. Especially since my math skillz are less than stellar. Heh.

2) I’m not wearing headphones/ipod. I’m nowhere near elite, but do you ever see elites racing with ipods? Nope. Their focus is on running fast and racing well. I occasionally use an ipod on an easy run or treadmill workout and I admit that it IS motivating, but I don’t want to risk distraction for this race. I want to be completely in the zone, focused on the task at hand. My goal isn’t just to finish, it’s to run a time that I previously thought was outside the realm of possibility. That being said, if you run with an ipod, please don’t be offended! I’m just letting you guys know what I need to do to have my best race.

3) On race week fueling – remember when I said I wasn’t going to drink this week? Hah, just kidding. I’ve had a lot of delicious beer and while I’m not going to say it was the best decision, I don’t regret it. You only live once and while this race is important to me, my M.O. is to not get too crazy about anything. I love running, I want to be fast, but I also want to be a normal 20-something who has fun with her friends. So on that note, I’m going to recommend that you drink some Southern Tier Pumpking (9% abv, whoa) ASAP.

So. There’s been a lot of beer, but I have also been eating HUGE salads for lunch everyday (seriously, I cannot believe how many vegetables were crammed into this bowl). That totally makes up for it..


Kale, red cabbage, spinach, butternut squash, beets, asparagus, sesame tofu, and wheatberries. Oh my.

If you’re interested, you can track me during the Philly half. Note to self: Don’t screw up, people might be watching your splits.

Alright friends, I’m out. I’ll be back on Sunday with a PR. Or a bottle of gin and self-wallowing (Mom, I am kidding! Mostly).

So, tell me – when things start to hurt during a race, what mantra or motivational thought keeps you focused?

  • Heather

    Good luck this weekend Megan! Props to you for no ipod – I find when I run without one I am impossibly slow – definitely a not-great habit. It is so fun to read your workouts week to week, while I am no where near your ability, it is still motivating.
    You’re going to do great in Philly!

  • Good luck on Sunday!!  I will look for you — I am spectating around mile 2-3!!

  • have a great race! I’m sure you’ll PR!! i’m doing the full, so i’ll definitely be using the ipod 🙂 although i hope i hear the Rocky theme atleast five times on the course!

  • Maren

    GOOD LUCK!!! Have a great race. I haven’t ran in so long I can’t even remember what I used to say to myself…ha! Can’t wait to hear from you Sunday with a PR!

  • I used “I think I can” from the Little Engine That Could during my last half marathon. I feel pretty silly about it now, but at the time it was really helpful and it helped me shave 7 minutes off my previous time on a pretty difficult course. 
    Good luck on Sunday! You are super well prepared and it sounds like it’ll be a great race! I’m excited to hear how you do!

  • Luckily, you’ve already had some math practice running with me! Ahh, that was a great day.

    Anyways, I have two: “I train to handle the pain” (stolen from Lauren Fleshman) or a combination of three words, something like “tall, smooth, steady” or “strong, smooth, steady” — I don’t know where tall comes from either, since I’m a towering 5’3″.

  • Anonymous

    those are good ones! thanks 🙂

  • RunTheLongRoad

    if it’s particularly painful, my fave is “the faster you run, the faster you get done”!  hope to see you tomorrow!

  • Ali

    WOO!!! I’m pumped to track you on every device possible. You have your sub-1:30 in you, I know it, and it’s exciting. Crush it, Megan, crush it!

  • Anamarie

    Do you buy or make the sesame tofu? It sounds really good!

  • first of all: “I’m staying with my Mom and Sister in a hotel on Saturday night which is clutch because I know they will love me no matter what.” LOL. i heart you.

    ok. i really think you’ve got this. you’ve proven again and again how tough you are mentally (not only in sneakers!), and it’s that toughness that is going to help you smash your goal.  you’ve been so determined throughout this training cycle, you’ve put in the effort, and i really believe that sunday is your day to make it happen. i’ll be tracking you in the am!

    and just think, the sooner you finish this race, the closer we will be to eating foie gras doughnuts at do or dine next weekend.

  • Anonymous

    the sesame tofu is made by the salad shop where i bought lunch (just salad is a chain in nyc). i’ve made it at home in the past, but am still perfecting my baked tofu technique 🙂

  • Laura

    “Strong and steady wins the race.”

    Have confidence, and you’ll be great! I’ll text you tomorrow if I figure out exactly where I’ll be. I’ll be looking out for you either way!

  • I don’t really have much advice for when things start to hurt – still workin’ on that one myself. But I do know you’ve trained your booty off for this, are very fast, and will for shizzle do an amazing job this weekend! Having your mom and sis there is great too – cheering squads that love you no matter what are definitely clutch. GOOD LUCK!! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  • Megan M.

    1) YOU CAN DO IT.
    2) “Just keep swimming”  said in ellen degeneres voice of dory from finding nemo It’s so catchy and also kind of amuses me b/c like, im not swimming, i’m running. lolz.

  • Kristen Seymour

    I’m so excited for you and sending good vibes your way.

    My number one piece of advice is to keep reminding yourself how lucky you are to be there — that you’re in a situation where you can attend a race, that your body will carry you for 13.1 miles, and that you’ve trained hard enough and well enough to be able to set the goals you’re setting. That always puts a smile on my face and helps me push a little harder!

  • I like your salad-makes-up-for-drinking rationale. I think I’m totally going to steal that, since I have never been able to follow the “no drinking the week before a big race” rule. Not that I’m anywhere near as fast as you are, but still!

    My mantra changes from time to time, but it’s almost always some variation of “I am strong; I can do this.”

  • Just got butterflies reading this! It’s gonna be a GREAT weekend!
    You know my mantra:


    🙂 See ya soon!

  • I’m already excited to read your race report. 🙂  You’re obviously going to get that half PR– you are an awesome runner!  But good luck anyway! 🙂  PS– LOVE Southern Tier Pumpking.  YUM.  

  • Good luck!! I know you will do great!

    I need to track down that beer asap.

  • Good luck Megan!! I just might be tracking you now. 🙂 Mostly because I’m so excited for you and I really can’t wait to see how you do. I’ve loved following your training for this half and know you have a sub-1:30 in you.

    Also, I laughed at your comment about staying with your mom and sister. I stayed with my sister for MCM and was so thankful for that decision. I’m sure I was a bear at some (okay, many) points during the weekend, but luckily she still loves me anyway.

  • Good luck! I’ll make a note to track you as well as track down the location of that beer in NYC…

    When the going gets tough during a run or race, I count my footsteps one by one until I reach 100, then start over and count by twos. And threes, and so on. I know that sounds like of OCD but I like having something to concentrate on and take my mind off the pain at hand.

  • err kind of OCD.

  • Have a GREAT GREAT race!!!  You are so ready, now go kill it in Philly!

  • A Male Reader/Fan

    As a (former) longtime resident and runner from Philly, I have two pieces of advice for you.

    1.  Tell your family you’ll meet at the Z meeting area.  It’s much less crowded, forces you to walk a longer cool down, and it’s farthest from the madness and thus easiest to leave from there.

    2.  You might already know this but the course isn’t the same as the one they use for the Distance Run.  It’s still a fast course but it is a bit hilly from about miles 7-10.  Just wanted to make sure you’re mentally prepared for that as you hit halfway.

    Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    Great advice about meeting at the Z area! Thanks 🙂 And hopefully I’ll be ready for those hills when the come…eek.

  • kayeanne

    “I will see a 20″…. when the going gets tough… keep saying this to yourself…  “I will see a 20″…. Then just keep “chopping the wood”… some old fellar yelled this to me last weekend at my marathon…. and I kept it with me…. chop, chop, chop…. PR!  🙂
    You can do it! 
    Stay positive… Train hard… win easy!
    There’s no wishing luck… there’s no “lucky” with running…  this is your journey…own it!

  • sarah

    I like a good rhythmic “don’t fuck up! don’t fuck up!”

    oops family blog

    hi megan’s dad!!!

  • yay! my home computer is letting me comment 🙂 stupid work computer….

    I stole “This is what you came for” from Scott Jurek for when things get tough. Go get that sub 1:30! It will be hard but SOOOOOO worth it.

    I love your pacing strategy and am sorta adopting it for myself. Paces adjusted accordingly of course. 🙂 I always start out waaaaaay too fast so I am hoping starting about 10 seconds slower for the first few miles will really help me.

    I will be in touch regarding my whereabouts this weekend. GOOD LUCK!!!

  • I think “if it was easy everyone would do it”- kind of reminds me that i worked hard to get there.

    Another favorite I tell myself is that I can be tired at the finish line!

    I just read something – can’t remember where- that Ryan Hall just thinks about whatever mile he is on while he is running. I tried this during my last marathon and it was really helpful- I would tell myself okay for the next 3 miles you just need to run “08:xx” depending on what my planned pace was for those miles. Didn’t think about my next target pace until I got to those miles. Helped keep me focused.

  • When I’m hurting in a race (especially a shorter one, I have yet to figure out how to get through mile 22…), I say “run the mile you’re in” because it’s easier to concentrate on THIS mile instead of four miles down the road

    GOOD LUCK!!  Sub-1:30!

  • Rad Runner

    I LOVE plan 1 and 2, I really want to do this.. Ive gotten much better at doing it on training runs on occasion, and even not looking at it for 5 miles on race day.. But I have yet to leave it behind, or either of the behind for that matter on race day. Rock the race!

  • Great race plan! I’ve also had luck in half-marathons with negative splitting (marathons..not so much) as it’s easier to relax the first few miles before getting into your groove and tackling the next 8-10 miles. With a fierce kick at the end, you’ll be golden! If I know I’m on track to hit my goal time, I repeat “PR, PR, PR” and focus on my stride the last few miles to really bring it home. 

    Also, I never race with headphones in, as I also like to really focus on the task at hand, and take in the crowds and race experience. I train with music sometimes to distract me and pass the time, and while often I “wish away” the miles in a race, I still do want to savor the experience.

    If I’m in a tough place mentally or physically, I remind myself that it’s going to hurt no matter if I run 6:XX or 10:XX, so I may as well go for it.

    GOOD LUCK!!!